Chechnya’s Bride-Abducting Tradition

Today’s WTF story:

GROZNY, Chechnya — Amina Edieva’s abductor stalked her like a seasoned predator. He approached the slender, raven-haired 18-year-old student on a Grozny side street, hoisted her off the ground in a tight bear hug and dragged her into a waiting car.

She screamed, kicked and scratched at the man, but he brought three male friends, a driver and two backup abductors to ensure she couldn’t escape. More young men in a second vehicle trailed, on the lookout for witnesses who might try to halt the brazen afternoon capture.

But Ms. Edieva knew that no Chechen would rescue her that September day nearly three years ago. Well versed in Chechnya’s bride-abducting traditions, she understood she was caught up in a centuries-old ritual in which her captor, a suitor she had frequently rebuffed, was going to force her to marry him.

“I told him I hated him,” she said, but he smiled.

“It doesn’t matter if you love me or hate me,” he told her calmly. “I want you, and you are going to be my wife.”

Across Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia, violent bride abductions are staged nearly every week in the mountain-ringed, southern Russian republics known as the North Caucasus; during the spring wedding season, it can happen every day. Young women are snatched from bus stops, on their way home from school and sometimes out of their own yards. A shocking video with clips of men dragging screaming young women, their books, purses and cellphones sent flying, is a popular YouTube posting.

Authorities in the two restive republics routinely turn a blind eye to the violent practice, preferring to depict it as a romantic tradition, often staged by the starry-eyed young couples themselves.

Some claim the practice has a fairytale quality and many young women dream of being abducted by a handsome man.

“It’s a sign that [a man] really loves her,” said Mariyat Muskeeva, a cultural liaison officer with the Chechen local government. “If a woman can tell her children that their father kidnapped her, it’s a great love story.”

Most women interviewed across Chechnya and Ingushetia disagreed, saying they felt no affection from the men who stalked them and shoved them into waiting cars. Others said the custom has no place in modern society.

“The government wants to deny this is a problem,” said Ms. Edieva, who eventually left her husband after a tense eight-month marriage. “They treat it as a normal thing.”

There are no hard statistics on how many women are seized each year in Chechnya and Ingushetia, but human-rights organizations say it is in the thousands. Locals estimate that about half of all marriages begin with abductions.

Here’s a YouTube compilation clip of women being kidnapped in Chechnya. I don’t have to say that this video is disturbing to anyone with a trace of humanity in them.

(via Radmila)